A federal bill banning workplace discrimination (known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act “ENDA) on the basis of sexual orientation cleared a key procedural hurdle last night as the Senate voted to begin debate on the measure, 61-30. Passage by the Senate is now expected later this week. (You can find my prior coverage of ENDA beginning here.)
It’s a significant step for sure. But the prospects for ENDA in the House of Representatives look grim.
A spokesperson for Speaker John Boehner said the Speaker would not support the bill. “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”
Connecticut’s experience with its own workplace ban on sexual orientation discrimination does not support the Speaker’s arguments.
According to the statistics from the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, in 2009-2010 (the last readily accessible statistics) there were only 53 employment claims statewide claiming sexual orientation discrimination. There were nearly 10 times the number of race discrimination claims that were filed over the same period.
That’s not to say that some of those complaints aren’t frivolous. Indeed, there were several claims that same year that were readily dismissed by the CHRO without further investigation.
But that hardly justifies allowing a company to purposely discriminate against someone because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook nailed it in a recent op-ed in the Wall St. Journal.
Our good friend, Jon Hyman, posted about this yesterday:
Anti-discrimination laws that exclude sexual orientation and gender identity suggest that these forms of discrimination are permissible. Additionally, while I look forward to embracing the day that all forms of discrimination cease to exist, I would not argue for the abolition of all anti-discrimination laws if that were to occur. Instead, I would argue that the laws are working, and are needed as a deterrent to maintain the status quo.
For employers in Connecticut, there will be less impact from ENDA then in many other states. But for employers that still think its ok to treat your employees differently because of their sexual orientation, your time is thankfully running short.